Among My Souvenirs

Stories of the road

The Eyes Have It

Women are always fascinated by other women, especially those who live in cultures so very different from our own.  Here in Istanbul we stood at the cross currents of the various sects of the Islamic faith as we respectfully took off our shoes to enter the great Blue Mosque.

Mia said, “I really want to get a picture with one of these Saudi women in their outfits.”  Believing that it was not acceptable, or worse, against their religion and culture, I expressed my skepticism.

Moments later, Mia produces a picture on her Iphone.  “How did you get her picture?” we all wanted to know.  Mia shrugged with a wry smile said, “I asked her.”  We all laughed.  Of course, she just asked her!

From the appearance of this Saudi woman her husband was quite wealthy as she wore a large diamond on her finger.  Her clothing was silk and floated around her as she walked away; in her hand, a large, bright orange designer bag.  You can almost see her smiling.  Her receptivity to the request gave the feeling that she was pleased that Mia had requested a photo with her.

Here was a woman who lived in a culture so vastly different than our own.  We tend to “feel sorry” for their unliberated status; all the while I wondered if she was not sad for us being alone and not protected by presence of a family entourage and a male escort.

Did her eyes communicate her appreciation for being noticed, singled out as someone special, beautiful and worthy of a photo?  Did they each, for a moment, wonder what it would be like to live the life of the other?  And then they parted.

Travel brings us closer to worlds and cultures so very unlike our own.  In that moment judgment falls away and we are all just people, connecting, communicating in a language that only the heart can understand.

The inedible image of the two women reminds me of why I travel: to connect, to make friends, to have experiences that will enrich my memories for the rest of my life.

Photo thanks to Abby Roads & Mia Brossett.